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Home Newsletters So-Wide Space September 2011

So-Wide Space September 2011

Article Index
So-Wide Space September 2011
Report from Richard Gombrich
New critical edition of the Tipitaka
Donations Pages
Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies
Asian Art in London
All Pages

Welcome to the September 2011 issue of So-Wide Space.  In this issue we have a report from Richard Gombrich on his activities over the summer: he attended the congress of the International Association of Buddhist Studies and taught three Pali courses.

Richard also provides us with a profile of the interesting work going on at the Dhammakaya Foundation.

We follow with details of the new Donations Pages on our web site, an update on the Journal of the Oxford Centre of Buddhist Studies (due for launch at the end of October) and details of a Lecture we are holding as part of the Asian Art in London festival in November.

Thank you very much for your continued interest and support of both So-Wide and the OCBS and we hope things are well with you.





Report from Richard Gombrich

I am having a busy summer.

In late June I attended the 16th congress of the International Association of Buddhist Studies (IABS), which meets once every three years. The hosts this time were Dharma Drum Buddhist College in Taiwan (President: Ven. Prof. Hui Min Bhikshu). The hospitality and organization were impeccable. Participants were housed in five hotels and shuttled to and from the conference by bus. The College provided main meals – vegan, of course. Well over a hundred volunteers, carefully trained, were always on hand to assist.

There were 102 panels, spread over five and a half days, and some five hundred papers. (precision is impossible because some speakers failed to show up.) Only those giving papers were listed , so I have to guess the total number of participants: about 750?

Obviously no individual could do more than sample the offerings. Here I shall only remark that while one expected a conference held in Taiwan to emphasise Far Eastern, especially Chinese, Buddhism and this was indeed so, the dearth of Theravada was surprising. No panel was devoted either to Pali or to Theravada. Less than half a dozen papers used Pali sources, and the few papers on Theravadin topics were mostly on culture (e.g., art history, Jātaka performance). Moreover, while I could not identify every name, I believe that no paper was given by anyone who currently teaches in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos or Kampuchea, nor did any member of the Thai Sangha speak. India too was poorly represented. I am absolutely sure that the organizers had no bias against Theravadin topics or scholars, so I wonder how this startling imbalance is to be explained. I intend to comment further in the first issue of the forthcoming Oxford Journal of Buddhist Studies.

At the conference I made the gratifying discovery that at the previous conference, in 2008, which I had been unable to attend, I was given honorary life membership of the IABS for services to Buddhist studies. Since I do not know whom to thank, I record my gratitude here.

In less than two months I have given three intensive Pali courses. The first, which I labeled “intermediate” but turned out to be quite advanced, I held by request for three former pupils in my intensive introductory course. I feel rewarded when pupils at that course maintain and improve their Pali. For four and a half days we met in my house, mostly to read the AlagaddūpamaSutta of the MajjhimaNikāya and its entire commentary. Reading certain passages of the commentary helped me to understand why no one has ever translated the whole of it – indeed, why so little work has been done on it.

On 31 July the Ven Dr Dhammasami and I travelled to Budapest, where we then taught for six full days at the summer school of the Dharma Gate Buddhist College. I taught Pali all morning, and then again for over an hour in the late afternoon; earlier in the afternoon the Ven Dhammasami held a vipassanā class. I found the experience most enjoyable and rewarding. Only eight people attended my class, but instead of quantity I had quality: the Rector, János Jelen, and three of the College teachers took the course.

I had no idea how I could compress my usual twelve-day introductory course into six days. Not only did the time seem absurdly short, but since most of my pupils also attended the vipassanā class, and some also had other duties, they had no time to do homework. Would they get enough Pali for it to stick? I soon realized that it was going to work. I attribute this not only to the eagerness and intelligence of the class, but also to the fact that every Hungarian is taught grammar throughout primary school. How deprived we are in Britain!

The College was in crisis because recent legislation had suddenly removed their government funding and over half the staff had to lose their jobs virtually overnight. Even so, they spared no effort or expense to make me welcome, and I left with an extremely positive impression of the College ethos.

On 13 August I began my Pali Summer School, an intensive introduction to Pali. This is the eighth time I have taught the course and the fourth year running that it has been at Oxford Brookes University. As usual, Dr Tomoyuki Kono has been the assistant teacher. This was the first time that I have taught the introduction to basic grammar myself. I restrict the number of pupils to 14, but keep a waiting list. That is lucky, because this year no fewer than 4 people dropped out at very short notice; but I was able to fill their places. As usual, wide ranges of age, nationality and experience were represented.

There is no objective measure of the success of the course; to judge it I have to rely on pupils’ reactions and my own feelings.Though I am getting older and inevitably less sprightly, this may well be counterbalanced by experience, and I dare to hope that the course gets a little better every year.



Project to create a new critical edition of the Tipiṭaka.

by Richard Gombrich

Wat Phra Dhammakāya, near Bangkok, has an ambitious new project to re-edit the Pali Tipiṭaka. The Director of the Dhammachai Tipiṭaka Project is the Ven. Dr. Phramaha Thanavuddho, Assistant Abbot of the monastery and its Director of Education. The scholar in charge is a Sinhalese, Prof. G.A. Somaratne. Prof. Somaratne is also Rector of the Sri Lanka International Buddhist Academy (SIBA), a private Buddhist university in Sri Lanka; he divides his time equally between the two posts. Prof. Somaratne, who has a Ph.D. from Northwestern University, near Chicago, did postgraduate work with me in Oxford for two years, preparing the new edition of Saṃyutta Nikāya vol.1 which was published by the Pali Text Society.

Early this year several Pali scholars round the world were invited to constitute an Advisory Board for the project. They were then sent a sample of the work, a critical edition of the first 27 paragraphs (according to the PTS numeration) of the Brahmajāla Sutta, which is traditionally placed as the first sutta in the Sutta Piṭaka; this was accompanied by a huge critical apparatus, the chief editor’s explanation of the editorial principles followed, and a draft English translation. Scholars were asked for critical feedback in writing, and also invited to a consultative meeting on 28 June.

In the event five scholars were guests at this meeting: Professors Karunadasa and Meegaskumbura from Sri Lanka, Prof. von Hinüber from Germany, Prof. Masefield(a British scholar residing in Bangkok), and myself. The meeting lasted a full day. It was well organized and the participants were all, I believe, pleased with the outcome. The guests arrived with considerable criticisms, in which they appeared to be unanimous; they were listened to courteously and attentively, and after discussion all their main points seem to have been taken. I consider that Prof. Somaratne deserves much credit for this outcome.

This is not the place to go into detail about the project, but we look forward to hearing more of its progress and seeing the first publications. It is intended that the Pali will first be published in latin script but then also in Sinhala script and all the main scripts used for Pali in SE Asia.



Donations Pages

So-Wide and the OCBS run completely on donations received from the public. We are very grateful for all of the generosity shown to us over the years and are now wishing to work on developing this area further.

To this end we are now working with the Charities Aid Foundation to assist us with our fundraising. In the future CAF will process all online donations made to us through our website. They have many years experience in this and also provide the advantage of processing all Gift Aid claims on online donations for us.

In line with this we are creating a new Donations section on our website. Please click here to visit the first pages in this section. Following soon will be a page whereby you can donate a regular amount using Direct Debit plus details of a campaign we are running for three Lectureships in Buddhist Studies at Oxford University.

Paola Tinti, our Development Adviser, is also working closely with Steven Egan to develop a fundraising program that is more proactive in approaching Trusts and Foundations for funds.

Thank you again for all the support you show So-Wide and the OCBS.


Journal of the Oxford Centre of Buddhist Studies

Full details of the Journal can be found by clicking here. The Journal arose out of the wish to encourage regular subscriptive support of the OCBS whilst also providing something substantive in return.

We have a very good editorial team comprising Richard Gombrich, Tse-fu Kuan, Karma Phuntsho, Noa Ronkin and Alex Wynne to ensure the academic rigour and relevance of the Journal.

The Journal will be launched at the end of October and will be supplied in pdf format sent directly to subscribers' email. We will be in touch again shortly with full details on how to subscribe etc, at which time the details will also go up on our website.

We do hope you are able to support us in this new venture and find much of interest within the Journal.



Asian Art in London

On the 7 November the OCBS will again be taking part in the Asian Art in London festival with a lecture taking place at the Society of Antiquaries of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BE, with doors opening at 5.30 p.m.

This year David Pritzker will be giving a talk entitled: ‘ The Visual Culture of the Tibetan Imperial Period (7th - 9th Century)'

If you are around London and can make it we hope to see you there.

Entry is free. For any questions please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



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